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15 Critical Aspects to Consider When Drafting E-Commerce Return Policies

— February 20, 2024

When crafting e-commerce return policies, it’s essential to maintain a customer-centric approach. ~ Tom Golubovich, Head of Marketing, Ninja Transfers

Crafting an e-commerce return policy that balances customer satisfaction with business practicality is a nuanced task. We gathered insights from CEOs and founders to pinpoint the critical aspects to consider. From including educational return resources to offering flexible return conditions, explore the diverse perspectives in our compilation of fifteen expert responses.

  • Include Educational Return Resources
  • Ensure Clarity in Return Steps
  • Specify Product Condition for Returns
  • Highlight Ease of Return Process
  • Display Return Policy Prominently
  • Provide Detailed Return Instructions
  • Prioritize Simplicity in Return Policies
  • Balance Convenience with Business Needs
  • Set Reasonable Cancellation Periods
  • Clarify Trial Period Terms
  • Balance Customer Satisfaction with Sustainability
  • Choose Between Store Credit or Refunds
  • Prioritize Customer-Centric Return Policies
  • Communicate Policy with Transparency
  • Offer Flexible Return Conditions

Include Educational Return Resources

Providing educational resources as part of our return policy can be a valuable addition. This includes clear and concise instructions on how to initiate a return, what to expect during the process, and tips for successful returns. 

By offering guidance, we empower customers to navigate the return process with confidence, reducing potential frustrations and inquiries. Education also helps customers understand their rights and responsibilities, creating a smoother and more informed return experience.

Ian Sells, CEO, Million Dollar Sellers

Ensure Clarity in Return Steps

The most important aspect you need to input into your e-commerce return policies is clarity. I do this best by providing a step-by-step guide on my website about returning goods or how to claim a refund. I have to make sure that whoever buys from my e-commerce business will know that I am giving my word as to the quality of their purchase. And if they’re not satisfied with their item, we will gladly accept returns and refund their money.

Erman Küplü, CEO, Analyzify

Specify Product Condition for Returns

E-commerce returns have increased by leaps and bounds after the pandemic hit. As local stores shut down and people turned to online shopping, they stuck with the online shopping trend, and thus the return of products continues to be a regular part of any e-commerce business. However, several e-commerce stores are not adequately documenting their return policies, which is resulting in difficulties in retaining customers. 

One very important aspect of framing your e-commerce return policies is determining the condition of the product for accepting returns. One e-commerce business I partnered with was receiving a lot of complaints about damaged or used products from customers, and they were accepting all the returns without requiring any proof. 

As the return of the shipment could mean an extra burden on your revenues, you should ask the customers for proof in the form of a picture or video that the product has been damaged or used before. Clearly state that the product should be returned in prime condition, and if it arrives damaged in the shipment, please share a photo or video for proof.

Stefan Campbell, Owner, The Small Business Blog

Highlight Ease of Return Process

Making it easy for customers to return products that aren’t suitable can be a big boost to conversion rates. As such, it’s important to make it clear within your return policy how straightforward the process will be for the customer should they need to use it.

Including information about any costs involved (or ideally, the lack thereof), pre-paid postage, and timescales for processing all help give confidence to shoppers and turn them into paying customers.

Ben Donovan, Founder, Brand Builder University

Display Return Policy Prominently

One thing you should consider when drafting a return policy is how it’s displayed on your site. Some people will not go through with an order if they don’t see a visible return policy. On the other hand, your audience will probably be more willing to pull out their debit card if they know there’s no risk to trying your product. 

On our sites, we tell users that they get a 100% money-back guarantee within 14 days if they are not happy with their purchase. Believe it or not, we actually saw our return rate decrease after adding this banner to the bottom of our product landing pages.

Syed Balkhi, Founder, WPBeginner

Provide Detailed Return Instructions

Returning something should be as easy as pie, and that’s why a step-by-step guide is your best friend. Imagine you’re making it foolproof for a friend. Where do they go, what do they need, and how much does it cost? 

First, be clear on where customers can submit their return requests: a simple form or a specific email. Let them know what documents, if any, they need to have handy, like the order confirmation. And remember the nitty-gritty details, like whether they foot the bill for return shipping or if there are any special instructions for sending things back. It’s like giving them a roadmap with clear signs at every turn. 

When you break it down into simple steps, it’s not just about returns; it’s about making the whole process a breeze so your customers feel confident and hassle-free when they need to send something back.

Chris Hunter, Director of Customer Relations, ServiceTitan

Prioritize Simplicity in Return Policies

When it comes to e-commerce return policies, as per my understanding, you should give priority to clarity and simplicity. Make sure that policies are easily understandable and cover the key aspects such as the return window, condition criteria, and refund process. 

With this transparency, you not only ensure customer trust but also streamline internal processes, contributing to a positive customer experience and long-term business success.

Faizan Khan, Public Relation and Content Marketing Specialist, Ubuy Australia

Balance Convenience with Business Needs

One critical aspect to consider when drafting e-commerce return policies is balancing customer convenience with business sustainability. This involves creating a policy that is both flexible enough to give customers confidence in their purchases and structured enough to protect the business from potential abuses or logistical challenges.

A notable example of this balance in action is Amazon’s return policy. Amazon has set a high industry standard for customer-friendly return policies, offering easy returns on a vast array of products. This approach has been a key factor in building customer trust and loyalty. However, they also implement measures to ensure business sustainability. For instance, Amazon tracks return patterns and may flag or even ban accounts with unusually high return rates. This duality ensures customer satisfaction without compromising the business’s operational efficiency and profitability.

The impact of such a balanced return policy is significant. It enhances customer confidence in purchasing decisions, knowing they have a safety net if the product doesn’t meet their expectations. On the other hand, by setting clear guidelines and monitoring for abuse, businesses can mitigate the risk of financial losses due to excessive returns. For any e-commerce business, achieving this balance in the return policy is crucial for long-term customer satisfaction and operational sustainability.

Bruno Gavino, Founder, CEO, CodeDesign

Set Reasonable Cancellation Periods

Set a clear and reasonable cancellation period for customers in your return policies. This timeframe dictates when they can cancel their orders, which can greatly impact their perception of your brand. Too short a window may lead to frustration, while an excessively long period can disrupt inventory management and fulfillment processes. 

Align the cancellation timeframe with your order processing timeline, so customers can act before their order enters the shipping phase. Communicating this period proactively during the purchasing process manages expectations and builds trust. It enhances the customer experience, streamlines internal operations, and contributes to the overall effectiveness of your e-commerce platform.

Peter Hoopis, Owner and CEO, Peter Hoopis

Clarify Trial Period Terms

Clarity in your trial period policy is essential. At Dozy, we clearly state that all products are eligible for a full refund within 30 days of purchase, provided they are unopened and in their original packaging. We emphasize that opening the packaging, including unrolling any rolled mattress, voids the ability to return the product. This policy is crucial for our business as it manages customer expectations and maintains product integrity. 

For other businesses, especially in the mattress industry, having such clear terms is vital to prevent misunderstandings and potential financial losses due to returns of used or damaged products. Think of it beyond business protection: it also builds trust in your brand because you transparently share the return conditions. This will highlight your advantages compared to shady or simply less prepared businesses.

David Owen, Founder, Dozy

Balance Customer Satisfaction with Sustainability

The aspect of drafting an e-commerce return policy that I believe is most critical is the balancing act between customer satisfaction and business sustainability. Running an e-commerce brand, NOTIQ, which prioritizes sustainability, I’ve learned that return policies play a crucial role in maintaining this balance.

Our approach takes into consideration the environmental impact of shipping products back and forth. So, our return policy allows returns or exchanges within 14 calendar days of shipping on qualifying unused, non-subscription, non-sale items. This influences customers to make mindful purchases and limits frequent returns, reducing carbon emissions from shipping. While this may seem strict, we offset this by offering price adjustments within seven days of the original purchase date in case of a sale, thereby extending a fair deal to our shoppers. But we also limit the number of returns within fixed time periods (one return in 30 days and three within 180 days) to ensure sustainability for our enterprise.

Moreover, dealing with defective or damaged items has also been an essential part of shaping our policy. We ask our customers to send us an email with photos or video of the defective or damaged item and initiate the replacement process, which is subject to product availability. This flexible approach to handling damaged or faulty items helps us uphold our commitment to customer satisfaction while minimizing losses.

Vivian Jade, Founder, Notiq

Choose Between Store Credit or Refunds

The FDA is Using Internet Registries to Stop Opioid Sales
Photo by Aryan Dhiman on Unsplash

It’s crucial to decide whether you’ll provide store credit or a full refund. Customers usually want to know their compensation method before returning a product. While most might prefer cash, there are strategies to encourage them to choose store credit instead.

A good method is to offer slightly more value than the original purchase price if they opt for store credit. Another way to incentivize store credit is by providing free return shipping for those who select this option.

Additionally, in cases of defective or damaged items, your policy should always be to offer a replacement or a full refund, including shipping costs. It’s important to respond promptly, apologize for any inconvenience, and correct the issue for your customer.

Amy Tribe, Director, OGLF (Our Good Living Formula)

Prioritize Customer-Centric Return Policies

When crafting e-commerce return policies, it’s essential to maintain a customer-centric approach. Our return policy should prioritize customer satisfaction and convenience. This means offering hassle-free returns, including prepaid shipping labels, no restocking fees, and a lenient return window. 

By putting the customer’s needs first, we can build trust, enhance the shopping experience, and encourage repeat business. It’s crucial to view returns as an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships rather than as a cost.

Tom Golubovich, Head of Marketing, Ninja Transfers

Communicate Policy with Transparency

Regarding the return policies of e-shops, one key aspect that draws a lot of my attention is communication and transparency. It is crucial to ensure that your customers can understand your return policy with ease. This means avoiding the use of legal terms and preferring vernacular representation. Make sure that your policy is clear, and it must define the major aspects, such as the time frame for returns and the condition in which goods should be returned. If not packaged properly, condition-related fees, any restocking costs, or restocking charges may apply.

It isn’t just a matter of customer convenience; discussing the degree of transparency in your return policy is also important as a protection under the law that an issuer provides to the consumer. Uncertainty around return policies can give rise to conflicts and possibly court applications. Having a clear policy gives direction to customers’ perceptions as well and, in doing so, minimizes conflicts that may turn into legal matters.

Lyle Solomon, Principal Attorney, Oak View Law Group

Offer Flexible Return Conditions

In my experience, one critical aspect to consider when drafting e-commerce return policies is flexibility. As an expert in this field, I always advise clients to offer generous return windows and lenient conditions. Why? Because in today’s world of online shopping, return policies have become a key factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions. 

If a policy seems too restrictive or inconvenient, many customers will abandon their carts and take their business elsewhere. By offering flexible, easy-to-understand return terms, e-commerce brands can gain a competitive advantage and build goodwill with their customers. A little bit of leniency upfront often pays off in greater long-term loyalty and sales.

Paul Eidner, COO, CarnoSport®

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